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  CBS    Mosaic    Series/Special.  (CC)  

    September 19, 2010
    5:00 - 5:29am PDT  

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good morning welcome to mosaic i am rabbi eric ice. this morning we are talking about a year of civil discourse. it is a year toward talking in a civil fashion about israel and all the different aspects of the state of israel. joining us are rachel a professional mediator and abby associate director of jewish community relations council. this is a wonderful initiative cosponsored by the jewish federation of marin and sonoma
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counties, jewish relations council and northern california rabbis. i am president of the board of rabbis so i am excited to talk to rachel, erin and abby. thank you very having us. >> what is the year of civil discourse and why focus on israel? >> we are really excited about this project eric. we are launchling this because of controversy that brewed within the jewish community. we at jcrc are often -- most of our work is looking at community relations outside of the jewish community but the way in which our community dialogues about israel and other controversial matters has signaled to us we also need to focus at building bridges within the jewish community. we are launching initiatives to
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elevate the level of discourse within the jewish community on controversial issues. we heard from community leader who have felt verbally and physically attacked because of their support of israel and other leaders who have been calling for a two state union for years. what we found is that everybody on all sides of the political spectrum within the community, has felt alien ated and marginalized. we aim to have a exclusive community that will build community cohesion and make everybody feel part of our warm jewish family. >> i know some people in the community are very aware of the ways in which talking about israel can spark a lot of deep feelings, a lot of controversy and there are also people in the community who really have
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no idea this is even an issue of contention all together but i think that it might be important to say on a very very concrete level in some places there are people who are life long friends who when the they discover they disagree on a topic having to do with israel it could be something to do with the stand on peace negotiations or something -- a particular internal issue to the state all of a sudden people find themselves not invited to the sha bat table of a best friend or not invited to pass over or a wedding or a bar mitzvah or suddenly during coffee hour after services, people are not talking to each other when they have spent years car pooling each other to liturgy school together and serving on committees and synagogues and find there is a gap and a real strain in their relationship and so i think it is important to say from the get go that it is not just big
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issues it effects people in in big personal ways as well. >> it does. we have each had a personal experience like the ones that you mention and i think many of us in the community have had that. sitting at pass over table and are asked a question about you know your perspectives and it can be terribly alien ating and disruptive to the relationships we each have in our lives. this project aims at helping people build the skills that they need to be able to talk about israel and even the most controversial policy, pieces of the conversation, but in a way that will build much richer, much more meaningful conversation and we hope build relationships. so how are we going to go about doing this? >> we are going to go about doing it in multiple ways. one, we are going to intensify and expand something called project reconnection which abby and i started five years ago.
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an intrajewish dialogue and deliberation project that has been very successful and modeled for other parts of the country how to do internal, intrajewish conversations that are vibrant, engaging we don't gloss over any of the difficult stuff it is not just make nice it is really real conversation and we are going to expand that but what is the work you are doing with the rabbi circle we will train facilitators so we have many more dialogue opportunities for people to engage with. we will be having film and back discussion groups for people to engage the conversation but they will be engaging it hopefully in a way that is vibrant and rich and not so rank rows we are really trying to make a real new normal about this conversation that reduces fear and reduces ranker. we are just going to take a quick break and come back.
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please join us in just a moment ,
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welcome back to mosaic i am rabbi eric ice. i am honored to be your host. we are engaged in an initiative about the year of civil discourse focussing on issues how we talk the each other in the jewish community about israel and joined by abby the director of jewish moderation council and abby also a mediator. we were talking before the break how this project is really a collaborative venture an effort by the jewish relations council, the federation in san francisco and northern san francisco board of rabbis. this may be hard to see for our
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folks because there is so much text but this is a pastoral leter that was written by a group of rabbis and signed by over 150 rabbis throughout the entire bay area essentially a pastoral letter asking people to take time to listen and speak respectfully about israel and in that way, it is a tremendous i think effort by the entire rabbinic community from every possible theological political spectrum across the bay area, urging the entire community to take seriously this year of civil discourse and what it means to listen and speakrerespectfully. >> if i recall wasn't the letter itself written by a wide spectrum of rabbis. >> the process is that it was open to all rabbis, in the
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entire bay area, and then it was put together by a committee of rabbis from broad spectrum and then all rabbis were invited to sign on to the letter and in fact, every rabbi that was contacted wants to sign on to the letter. for any rabbi not on this list yet it is only a matter of letting us know and signing on to it. one of the things i loved about the letter it really links to one jewish tradition of listening and speaking reflectfully and also some times the tradition where we didn't and what happened and the senseless hate red that would arise when we aren't really anchored in those teachings. and one of this i thinks that we do in the year of civil discourse is we really dry on lineage because it is deep and we have teachings and what we are really building now is the
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platform for bringing those teachings into our modern world. >> i think one of the lovely things about a rabbinic voice in this particular perspective is that people i think forget that in the context of jewish life today, when the temple stood in jerusalem and then was destroyed and we became a die as spa community it was a rabbinic imagination that formed judaism that would be contemporary to every time and that judaism academically is considered rabbinic judaism but we call it being jewish today and that in some ways, that rabbinic imagination is what enabled jewish life to be contemporary in every single type even today so that an individual who is not religious can coequally claim to be jewish as someone who we might think of as observant. but within that context there
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is an understanding how we disagree with one another and there is a principle which i know you know about which means this and that. it is basic and simple but says from the theological perspective, x perspective and y perspective are coequally regarded from the perspective of theology that is what we are trying to remind people of when we bring rabbinic imagination to this. it is so exciting to us to have the blessing of so many rabbis across the bay area in doing this work and in addition to that blessing we've got of the rabbis, we are really trying to create programs specifically for rabbis because we recognize that the rabbis in our community need to equally be supported in leading
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conversations that are controversial whether it is in the pulpit or outside the doors of a congregation gas. when rob buys feel they can model civil discourse all of us within the jewish community feel we have a safe place to have those conversations as well. this kind of both blessing from the rabbis and leadership of the rabbis in support of them is just such an exciting component. and i think it is just models the ways in which civil discourse can happen organically on many many different levels, rabbis, late leaders, people otherwise not associated with a synagogue. >> we need it everywhere. there is no place and it is not just jewish life it is also the larger environment that we are living in and one of the that i thinks that i hold personally as a vision is that if we in the jewish community can really
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model this conversation about israel, what might open up for the rest of our country on other controversial issues that we can really help to be leaders in this area. >> we are going to take a quick break and return in just a moment to continue this very interesting vital conversation about the year of civil discourse ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
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welcome back to mosaic i am rabbi wise i am honored to be your host. we are in the middle of a wonderful conversation about the year of civil discourse with abby and rachel who is a professional mediator. i was thinking one of the most interesting parts about this year's civil discourse and dialogue is that we live in a time in our country where there is so much pressure to say
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where you stand on a particular issue and that you have to know exactly with precision what you thing about something, what direction you want to go in and even what action you want to take yet when you are open to listening and speaking, and i think the very nature of dialogue has this under current, there is a way in which there is an assumption that it is okay to take time to think something over. to mull something over even be open by an empathic stretch toward hearing what someone else's -- changing your mind it seems almost counter cultural we do live in a time where i think our country has an impatiens with giving time for something to gestate or incubate or let imagination take its course whichever >> well, the project is -- and the different kind of programs we are offering are geared at
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really building the skills to have conversationsings controversial matters not by asking people to check their opinions at the door. we want tempo bring their opinions to the table but rather than the goal being to change others opinions our real focus is on dialoguing about the values and the philosophical underpinnings of our perspective. that is where relationships are built and that is where there is common understanding and mutual respect that is developed. in today's politically polarizing world where team sports are the mode of operation, we see that reflected in the jewish community as well and certainly reflected around conversations around israel. by having people come to the table, and talk about those things that drive us, the fears, the hopes, aspirations, that really guide our opinions, there we can build a much more
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inclusive jewish community particularly around these issues. and i would just add to what abby said and kind of buildings on what you said rabbi wise that there is something about nuance that is missing from the conversation too often. what we do is we provide the infrastructure, and help people work with the skills and learn the skills, for unpacking those subtleties, for really understanding the nuance and some times minds really do change. usually what happens though, is people don't change their core position, they expand to include the other people's views and that does something to the willingness and ability to try to problem solve in a new way. so if i can take into account your view and your view, even if i still hold my same old view, i've some how hold it differently i think that is what you are talking about
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being a little more porous and open. when we come together and decide how should we work with xy z related to israel we approach it differently that changes every think and it changes the narrative to a more expansive one. it makes -- what do you think the threat is that we respond to, it seems to me that if i feel that i'm not heard that some how then i feel threatened or if someone hears something that they don't agree with, there is a sense of threat. what is the threat when we are talking about israel and we don't agree? >> can i jump in on this one? i actually started about 10 years ago seeing something that i've called the if you don't see it my way we might all die syndrome. in addition to the normal human wanting to be heard which i think we all have, there is also i think very deep jewish fear of survival that goes way
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back, you know, 2,000 years of history and it became necessary that we convince the tribes that we were right if we were going to go in a certain direction or the tribe didn't survive. you know the collective didn't survive. so underneath some of the normal you know, the amegdella can become active in the brain, i think there is a collective survival energy that is around this topic and it is just so charged that you know there is just many many layers of it. >> we will take a quick break and continue this fascinating conversation in just a moment. please come back and join us here on mosaic ,,
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welcome home, man.
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for more information on the year of civil discourse please contact the jewish community relations council at ... welcome back to mosaic i am rabbi wise. we are joined by abby the associate director to have jewish community relations council and rachel a mediator. you were going to tell us about a case study. >> yeah, here is one perform of many, a recent temple where people were angry over an israel support statement in the temple many people were going
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the leave the rabbis who also are quite diverse in their opinions brought everybody together we did some really great work the jcrc consulted and within just two short meetings of two hours each, these people came together and created a statement, where there was deep -- unanimous agreement actually. and this was so polarized it took them a year of threatening to leave before they were able to come together and finally get underneath and get to the fears and get to what was really important and they found agreement quickly. we see that happening often. you know so these deeply polarized situation where is people think there is no resolution often there is a resolution if people do the kind of subtle nuanced work and have the imagination you were speaking to. >> i think in some subtle but maybe important shift that when we recognize or have a kind of
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fight flight response to something because we feel threatened, that if we take the time to allow our curiosity to be stimulated that it can bring us to a different part of our soul and mind and heart and let the imagination allow us to lis season allow us to speak and make some of that -- listen and allow us to speak and make that sort of empathic -- i wonder too, do you have experience of seeing where it effects the relationship between the rabbi and congregation in terms of what they might say from the pulpit or might teach in an adult education course or might decide how the religious school curriculum gets formulated and taught? >> we do. we see rabbis are less fearful once they have gone through a process. they are much more willing to stand up and talk about their values, and also makes space in
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the room for the congregation to talk about differing ways of viewing the situation. >> lay leadership? >> it has very much been impacted by this as well. the words are really coming to have to wrestle with these issues once they do people are changed this is a tons formative process i would say and people are not necessarily again, their minds don't necessarily change but their capacity to hold the whole spectrum is what changes. >> i think what is also important to say is that we live in a community where i think conservatively 25% of the jewish community actually is associated by member ship to a synagogue. i think it is also very important to say that for those who aren't attached to a synagogue, that disagreement around the stand on israel, we hope is not a barrier to looking for a synagogue community you feel attached to
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but in fact that shouldn't be a mistest but that should be a place to go and bring your voice and bring your ears and be a part of the broader conversation. well, we hope this initiative will open the doors of the jewish community to everybody so through the institutional based programming we are going to do we hope to build added inclusivety and also a program selection for people who may not be affiliated with an institution but want to participate in the program. our goal is give a menu of options to everybody in the community. >> abby and rachel we are at the end of our time we have to say we put a comma in the conversation and say that we are so grateful to have the two of you here and thank you so much for the vision of a year of civil discourse to bring this gift to the community for all of us to reap the benefits. thank you for your full-time and effort and join -- and effort and thank you for joining us here on mosaic.
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